I hope you have all enjoyed a beautiful memorial day weekend and are now enjoying June. I was able to be off this memorial day and spent some time visiting family graves. So many memories popped up–of times when loved ones were still with us and I was a child. I also enjoyed some relaxed time around a campfire with my family, including our grandson Leon. We had a beautiful clear night for roasting marshmallows and he enjoyed holding his own stick. First to completely burn a marshmallow and then held it so far away that it did not even get warm. But he was happy. He also led us in a few rounds of howling at the beautiful moon with great enthusiasm. This spring we have enjoyed sightings of baby animals. And at Hope & A Future we are watching our tiny chickens grow at amazing speed. Leon is growing and developing almost as fast as the baby chicks! 2 going on 3. And, in the same breath we are holding hands with people facing the end of life. Together, younger and older are enjoying the warm weather, spring flowers and garden greens. We work together with the resident’s families to string together moments of joy and comfort. It is not always easy work, but it is important work. There is beauty in every phase of life–including the last one.
The joy experienced in each day of our lives becomes more precious when we understand that our days on earth are limited. I am grateful to have had close relationships with people that could talk with me about facing the end of their life. As I write this, I am remembering people who died hoping to see the completion of the new model of care we are developing at Hope & A Future. And I remember older friends and patients who ended up living out their days in nursing homes with endless empty hours in front of them and inadequate help to meet their needs. I also have the joy of remembering the warmth of people dying at peace. Over the past 20 years of intergenerational living, I have been able to help people live more of their last days filled with joy and meaning. Although it is hard to watch health fail, it is wonderful to help people enjoy the time and energy they do have! And, it has been life changing to hear what they have to say.
I can remember things said to me by my Grandmother when I was 6 years old;
“I wish I was going to be here to watch you grow up, but I want you to know that when I am in heaven, I will no longer have pain and I will always love you.” And when I was 8, my young Father told me, “I will not always be here with you, but I will always love you.” He died 6 months later. My neighborhood Grandmother when I was a teenager. “Do you remember asking me for this hat when you were a little girl?” I did. “I have written in my will that it is to go to you when I die, because you are important to me.” A dear family friend in a nursing home when I was in my 20’s, “You must be our crusader. Find a way to get us out of these nursing homes! You have shown me I can still do things and enjoy life. I have lived better because of you–even in this place! But you must be our crusader, you must get us out of these places!” A nursing home patient, “You must keep working to get us out of these prisons!” The dying husband of the first older adult I moved into my home. “Bring the generations of children together, so you can help others as much as you have helped Elizabeth and me.” And the resident at Hope & A Future who was asked how she could have improved so much in a few months and “what facility do you live in?” Looking confused, she stated, “I don’t live in a facility.” Paused and then added, “But I do share a home with people that know how to help me.” And another resident at Hope & A Future stating, “I no longer want my ashes to go back to England. I want them to stay here, because this has been my best home.” All of these people let me know that I was important to them and that Hope & A Future’s mission is important. They wanted me to pursue my goal to create the first of it’s kind, TIIN. Their love and friendship became part of who I am and what I have chosen to do with my time on this earth. And my passion is likely fueled by those relationships.
Creating the first TIIN (Therapeutic Interactive Intergenerational Neighborhood) has been somewhere between a lofty to impossible goal. But my passion remains–because even in the first and smallest phase we have helped people of all ages live better lives. I have known some of the kind of pain I am working to abate for others. The TIIN is designed to overcome loneliness and empower young and old to help each other flourish.
Today staff and residents brought in fresh cut flowers from our gardens and made beautiful bouquets that were enjoyed by residents too frail to get out to see the gardens. What joy on both ends! Our aim is to create a beautiful environment that nurtures loving relationships. We want everyone to know they are important. I hope you know that about yourself too. As far as I can tell, a sure fire way to feel loved is to help someone escape loneliness. And when we know that our days are numbered it helps us better understand just how precious each person and day is.
This June, I hope to see some of you at our house concert on June 6th at 6pm and the Mallards game on the 22nd at 6:05 pm. Doors open at 5:05 pm Click here to buy tickets!. If you want to help with these events, please go to the volunteer page on our website! And please plan to be here on July 16th at 2PM to hear about the history of our beautiful property and enjoy some pie!
Until then, embrace the day and each other!